List of Byzantine emperors

This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation of Constantinople in 330 AD, which marks the conventional start of the Byzantine Empire (or the Eastern Roman Empire), to its fall to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 AD. Only the emperors who were recognized as legitimate rulers and exercised sovereign authority are included, to the exclusion of junior co-emperors (symbasileis) who never attained the status of sole or senior ruler, as well as of the various usurpers or rebels who claimed the imperial title.

Traditionally, the line of Byzantine emperors is held to begin with the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, who rebuilt the city of Byzantium as an imperial capital, Constantinople, and who was regarded by the later emperors as the model ruler. It was under Constantine that the major characteristics of what is considered the Byzantine state emerged: a Roman polity centered at Constantinople and culturally dominated by the Greek East, with Christianity as the state religion.

The Byzantine Empire was the direct legal continuation of the eastern half of the Roman Empire following the division of the Roman Empire in 395. Emperors listed below up to Theodosius I in 395 were sole or joint rulers of the entire Roman Empire. The Western Roman Empire continued until 476. Byzantine emperors considered themselves to be rightful Roman emperors in direct succession from Augustus;[2] the term "Byzantine" was coined by Western historiography only in the 16th century. The use of the title "Roman Emperor" by those ruling from Constantinople was not contested until after the Papal coronation of the Frankish Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor (25 December 800 AD), done partly in response to the Byzantine coronation of Empress Irene, whose claim, as a woman, was not recognized by Pope Leo III.

The title of all Emperors preceding Heraclius was officially "Augustus", although other titles such as Dominus were also used. Their names were preceded by Imperator Caesar and followed by Augustus. Following Heraclius, the title commonly became the Greek Basileus (Gr. Βασιλεύς), which had formerly meant sovereign but was then used in place of Augustus. Following the establishment of the rival Holy Roman Empire in Western Europe, the title "Autokrator" (Gr. Αὐτοκράτωρ) was increasingly used. In later centuries, the Emperor could be referred to by Western Christians as the "Emperor of the Greeks". Towards the end of the Empire, the standard imperial formula of the Byzantine ruler was "[Emperor's name] in Christ, Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans" (cf. Ῥωμαῖοι and Rûm). When on occasion rendering their names and titles in Latin in the centuries following the adoption of Basileus and Greek language, Byzantine rulers used Imperator for senior emperors and Rex for junior emperors, as seen in coins of Michael III and his junior emperor Basil I.[3]

In the medieval period, dynasties were common, but the principle of hereditary succession was never formalized in the Empire,[4] and hereditary succession was a custom rather than an inviolable principle.[1]